The Knoopkazerne

architectenbureau cepezed as Architects

The Knoopkazerne in the center of Utrecht dates from 1989 and served for decades as headquarters for the Royal Netherlands Army. The building has now been radically transformed into a combined office and meeting center for the national government. Commissioned by the consortium R Creators with Strukton, Ballast Nedam and Facilicom, cepezed produced the architectural design. Fokkema & Partners Architects was involved for the interior design and Rijnboutt for the urban design component.

The original complex was characterized by a pronounced multitude of volumes with varying heights and floor dimen- sions as well as meandering façades with a smoke glass sun-blind. In the redevelopment designed by cepezed, drastic changes have been combined with partial demolition, new- build expansion and a completely new urban embedding over multiple height levels.

A lively, transparent and double-height plinth will include general functions such as the entrance zone, a café, restaurant and landing work places.

The existing construction of twelve storeys houses all office functions, with the characteristic octagonal concrete columns being left in sight. Removal of the many inner walls has resulted in more light, air, openness and transparency. Hybrid ceiling islands specially engineered for the project in existing buildings mean that no lowered ceilings are needed and that maximum spatiality is created despite the limited floor height. The meeting centre is located in an extension with eight high storeys. The new and existing buildings unite in a transparent atrium and a transport zone with elevators and stairs. In the conference centre, pausing areas and guest workspaces are located adjacent to and in open connection with the atrium. For a pleasant quiescence, the meeting rooms are more remote from the atrium.

The complex has a taut outer skin with vertical articulation that binds the different parts together into one whole. In this way, inlets in the original building contour will form voids that contribute to the internal spatial quality.

Sustainability is very important and is achieved through, among other things, an optimal reuse of the existing build- ing, a high degree of flexibility, natural ventilation and, for example, the use of triple glazing, approved materials and a partly green roof. A large surface of solar panels, use of the cumulative mass of the existing concrete construction and an energy system based on recirculation and heat recovery are, just like automatic presence detection for the light and CO2-measurement for climate control, important additional aspects.

project team: Ronald Schleurholts, Jan Pesman, Paddy Sieuwerts, Jaap Bosch, Ruben Molendijk, Lisen Hablé, Steven Goeman, Peter van den Heuvel, Ronald van Houten, Rutger Kuipers, Robertus de Bruin, Jorg Voogt, Paul Oehlers, Frank Smit

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State Office de Knoop

Fokkema & Partners Architecten B.V. as interior architect

Reshaping the past into the future

Delft, Netherlands, 2020-03-31 - 

The former ‘Lieutenant General Knoop Kazerne’ has been transformed into State Office ‘de Knoop’, a contemporary office building with additional representation as a central meeting hub for all Dutch Central Government Ministries. To house its new users in a transparent and inspiring environment, the original military compound with a closed structure was stripped completely. The virtues of the old construction with its wide octagonal concrete columns were reinterpreted in the design to offer intimacy and character: a profound counterbalance to a bright and daylight flooded new atrium. At the FRAME Awards 2020, State Office ‘de Knoop’ was awarded the people’s vote for the Governmental interior of the year, thanks to its user-centered design.

The new state office ‘de Knoop’, comprises an old building hull and a new building extension with a connecting atrium. The complex is wrapped with a rhythmic new glazed facade with vertical articulation and strongly embedded in the urban fabric. Precise logistics throughout the building and clever separations allow the building to meet high-security standards and a great capacity for adaptations in (future) use.

Voids, balconies, and staircases make a continuous sequence of spaces in the new Government Office building that was created in collaboration with Cepezed and Rijnboutt. The interior offers a customer journey that centers on users’ needs. This ranges from the open, buzzing environment at arrival, to the restaurant, the break-out areas and social hubs, and which becomes increasingly more personal towards the working domains, with the workplaces and small meeting areas.

The working domains are mainly situated in the characteristic existing building structure. The floors are now interconnected with new voids and staircases. Anchor points provide a meeting hub on each floor and are strung together with routing like a string of pearls in a necklace, each anchor point slightly different in order to do justice to the representation of the various users. In the conference center, situated in the new construction, open areas are defined along with the voids and staircases. These can house up to 300 people to informally connect before and after meetings. Its color schemes refer to the four seasons. 

Trees and plants are integrated into the design, while views of the city’s landmarks provide orientation. The integration of art and every detail up to the graphics of the wayfinding was designed with a meticulous passion to create a truly integrated design. Studio Drift made an enchanting design for the installation above the coffee bar in the connecting atrium.

Reshaping the past into the future

Oftentimes eighties buildings get destroyed because of the limited ceiling heights, poor build quality and closed character. With the adding of voids and staircases a newfound spaciousness was created with far-reaching sightlines and open floors. The connection of voids to a new atrium gave the formally introvert building an extrovert feeling while the transparent and fresh identity of the interior also seamlessly connects it to a new building part.


The old structure with its characteristic columns is now an asset, and by designing a special climate system, ample height is ensured in the office areas. Details like the exposed raw concrete against the smooth glass surface of the new elements and facade, emphasize the fluid merge between old and new. The materialization scheme was kept simple, the cool concrete of the existing building is contrasted with warm hues of wood and fabrics, never compromising on transparency.


Complex project parameters

The Dutch Central Government Agency commissioned the design, construction, and operations to the consortium R Creators after an extensive bidding process. They are contracted to finance the transformation with an exploitation phase of 20 years, making them responsible for maintenance and operation. This made for a complex field of stakeholders, various users, and strict government requirements.

Although the Programme of Demands consisted of 21014 requirements - relating to functionality, safety, acoustics, climate, sustainability, and aesthetics - the team managed to realize the extremely high ambitions while creating the most comfortable and welcoming working environment. According to ‘Centre for People and Buildings’ it is one of the most appreciated Dutch Government Office Buildings to work in and the interior was awarded a prestigious FRAME Award.

About Fokkema & Partners Architecten 

Fokkema & Partners is an architecture studio based in Delft, in the Netherlands. It has a philosophy grounded in providing optimal conditions for the wellbeing of the people in the spaces it designs. Since its foundation in 1995, the agency has designed the working environments of over 100,000 people. 
The agency works from the inside out, using its spatial experience to seek the perfect communion of materials, interiors, and surroundings. Driven by unbridled curiosity and creativity, it develops sustainable solutions that contribute to health and wellbeing. This has resulted in a vast body of interiors, extensive renovations, building transformations, and new constructions, all surprisingly self‐evident only after the fact. The identity-rich and future-proof designs are the results of intensive collaborations with clients, which range from local to national government organizations and from multinationals to high-end service providers and educational institutes. 

Project Credits
urban planning and landscape design
security consultant
building physics, sustainability, acoustics and fire safety
Product Spec Sheet

ManufacturersBoon Edam
contractor façadesDe Groot en Visser
operations and maintenance DBFMOFacilicom
Product Spec Sheet
contractor façades
operations and maintenance DBFMO
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